Russell Wilson’s early charge for the 2020 NFL MVP Award has come alongside a now popular three-word meme: “Let Russ Cook.”
The Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback has always shown off star qualities, but Seattle utilized him more as a game manager who contributed the occasional big play. Through four wins to start the 2020 season, Wilson has been one of the best players in football. His standout start isn’t because of the meme itself, but rather because Seattle embraced what “Let Russ Cook” means.
What does ‘Let Russ Cook’ mean?
To put it simply, “Let Russ Cook” means to let Russell Wilson be Russell Wilson. The per-play numbers have long supported the idea that Wilson is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but the Seahawks have always been a team that’s hung its hat on running the ball and playing good defense. “Let Russ Cook” could’ve just as easily come in another popular Twitter format as a hashtag, #FreeRussellWilson.
Instead of leaning on Chris Carson and the rest of Seattle’s running backs, Seahawks Twitter wanted Pete Carroll to let Wilson dominate the NFL like statistics suggested he might be capable of.
The “cook” part of this meme might have some overlap with with the “Let’s eat” meme that spent a few years as popular in the NBA. James Harden, for example, used to pantomime spooning food out of his hand into his mouth after making big plays.
Where did ‘Let Russ Cook’ come from?
The Athletic documented the meme’s history earlier this season. It began with a simple tweet from a Seattle-area structural engineer, Zach Whitman, in Week 3 of the 2019 season. He first implored the Seahawks to build Wilson a dome to play in, and he ended his tweet with those three simple words: “Let Russ cook.”
As mentioned above, the idea of letting Wilson have more control of the game wasn’t a new one. There was just now a slogan to put behind it, and Seahawks Twitter ran with it.
By the 2020 preseason, the phrase made it onto FS1’s “Speak for Yourself.” Carroll and Wilson were also asked about the phrase in the preseason, too. Carroll said that just because they want Wilson to control more of the game, “that doesn’t mean you throw the football all the time.” When Wilson was asked, he just said he wanted Seattle to approach every quarter with the sense of urgency they have in the fourth quarter of games.
After Wilson chucked the ball over the field in Week 1, Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer mentioned the meme to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer: “Literally, that’s what everyone talks about out here in Seattle — the whole Let Russ Cook thing.”
A national audience was introduced fully to the phrase on Week 2’s Sunday Night Football, when Seattle hosted the New England Patriots. After Wilson’s fourth touchdown, the broadcast went to commercial with a graphic of Wilson and the words “Let Russ Cook.” Color commentator Cris Collinsworth used the phrase himself during the fourth quarter of the broadcast.
“Let Russ Cook” had officially arrived.
Russell Wilson might ‘cook’ all the way to MVP
Wilson’s off to a record-breaking start to the 2020 season. His 16 touchdown passes through four games is an NFL record. So is his total fantasy points through four weeks. Wilson’s worst game was probably Week 4 against the Dolphins, when he still threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. His average stats through four games are 321.25 yards and four touchdowns on a league-best 75.2-percent completion percentage.
One of the early-season narratives that’s been floated around is that Wilson has never received an MVP vote. That’s true, but it’s a bit misleading — the NFL asks each of its voters to submit just one name for MVP, not a list like other leagues. So when Patrick Mahomes (2018) or Lamar Jackson (2019) have the seasons they’ve recently had, it’s hard for Wilson to get anyone’s vote. A run-heavy offense hammers that difficulty home, too.
But it’s 2020, and things are different everywhere, including in Seattle. Last year, the Seahawks ran on the sixth-highest percentage of plays in the NFL. This year, that’s dropped to the 18th-highest, and Wilson has Seattle off to a roaring 4-0 start.
Seahawks safety Jamal Adams missed Seattle’s Week 4 game, but his Twitter account was active throughout the contest. Late in the game, Adams sent out a three-word tweet. At this point, it shouldn’t be shocking to see what Adams’ tweet said:
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